TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The State of Florida has chosen to dismiss a $3.57 million fine against Leon County due to their employee vaccine requirements. The county executed a settlement with the state last week, bringing the threat of the fines to a halt.
Leon County started requiring county employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in July.
In an Oct. 6 notice issued by the Florida Department of Health, the Leon County Government was informed it faced the $3.57 million fine due to their vaccine requirements, which violated the state’s recently-passed anti-vaccine passport legislation.
The vaccine passport ban meant a series of fines for a noted 714 individual violations of the state law – each a $5,000 penalty. In response to the notice from FDOH, Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long said the county would stand by its decision on vaccine requirements, saying they were made for the safety and health of the county.
On the other side of the COVID conflict, a spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told 8 On Your Side that the mandates were not needed, nor “justified from either a moral perspective or a public health perspective.”
The county still believes that their vaccination requirement was justified and legal, but is now bowing to the legality of House Bill 1, which took effect on Nov. 18 and prevents the county government from requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment.
“The county immediately implemented the state’s new law regarding vaccination mandates once enacted,” officials said in a statement. “As part of the settlement agreement with the state reached on Dec. 17, no monetary penalties or fines will be imposed on the county.”
Employees who were fired due to the vaccine mandate “may be considered for re-employment” should they apply for a job with the county again. Officials said those who had previously failed to comply with vaccination requirements, or to provide vaccination status, would still be considered, regardless of previous status.
The settlement between FDOH and Leon County includes provisions for the state to waive the fines levied and the county and its employees to release any claims to damages, attorneys’ fees, and other costs related to the policy and court case.
Going forward, the county said it looks forward to “continuing to protect the community and promote public health by encouraging COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and facilitating other related response efforts.”